Some column addenda
By Ralph R. Reiland
Published: Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 9:20 a.m.
It usually happens in the Liberty Tunnels or sometimes in the shower.
That's where I realize what I should have said in an already submitted column.
In “Slave labor, by church and state” (Feb. 11) on the imprisonment of “fallen” girls and women in the Magdalene Laundries, I should have said there were no equivalent laundries where allegedly “deviant” boys and men were forced to wash sheets for decades at no pay.
It's as if the births to the unwed mothers who ended up at the laundry tubs were all virginal.
It's a blame bias that mirrors the tale of Adam and Eve in which everything was perfect until a bad woman shows up and delivers the male, and humanity, to a world of shame, sweat and death.
In my column on autism, “The wrong mental-health mentality” (Jan. 21), I said the new law in New York requiring mental health professionals to give the government the names of clients who are “likely to engage” in harmful conduct would have the unintended consequence of discouraging people from seeking help and dissuading patients from speaking truthfully to mental health professionals.
The New York legislation, which authorizes police to confiscate the guns of anyone deemed to be “likely” to cause harm, was a rushed response to the shooting at Sandy Hook and the reports that the shooter had Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.
In fact, the 1.5 million people in America with autism are no more likely to commit violent crimes than the general population.
Even with schizophrenia, a severe psychotic disorder, researchers at the University of Oxford and the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet compared the rate of violent crime by schizophrenics to the general population.
Dr. Niklas Langstrom, a key researcher in the comprehensive study, provided a summary statement: “The idea that people with schizophrenia are generally more violent than those without is not true.”
What I should have said is that politicians seeking to establish a comprehensive database of violence-prone Americans are looking in the wrong place in forcing mental health professionals to turn over information on their clients. They could, for instance, start with gender. FBI data for 2010 show that 90.3 percent of the murderers that year in the U.S. were males.
In “Homicide in Black and White,” Brendan O'Flaherty, professor of economics at Columbia University, and Rajiv Sethi, associate professor of economics at Barnard College, provide a more specific categorization: “African-Americans are six times as likely as white Americans to die at the hands of a murderer, and seven times as likely to murder someone.”
Adding age, Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald provides further specificity: “The homicide rate among black males of the ages 14 to 24 is nearly 10 times that of white and Hispanic young males combined.”
It is the black community that is disproportionately victimized: “Ninety-three percent of all black homicide casualties from 1980 to 2008 were killed by other blacks,” reports Mac Donald.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 279,384 blacks in the U.S. were murder victims between 1976 and 2011. Using the aforementioned 93 percent figure, that means 259,827 were murdered by other blacks. That's 10,000 times more than Sandy Hook and five times larger than the total number of American deaths in the Vietnam War.
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur. His e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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